Time Essay: Camus: Normal Virtues in Abnormal Times

On Jan. 4, 1960, on a road southeast of Paris, a car lurched out of control and crashed into a tree. The driver and two of his passengers were injured; the fourth was killed instantly. When news of the tragedy emerged, the only appropriate word was one that the dead man had made famous: absurd.

For more than two decades, Albert Camus had been the lyricist of the absurd, a condition, he wrote, "born of the confrontation between the human call and the unreasonable silence of the world." To fill that silence, he wrote essays and fiction that have become part of...

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